The Parable of the Wicked Tenants

10-08-2017Catholic ThoughtsDavid Lins

The Gospel this weekend is the parable of the Wicked Tenants. It begins like this: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. So what happened? The tenants beat, killed or stoned every servant sent to the vineyard.

Then, the landowner did something none of us would do. He sent his son. The tenants seized him, took him outside the vineyard and killed him, as well.

Jesus asks His audience what they think the landowner would do. They quickly respond with the obvious - the landowner would kill them! Here is the catch: if you read Matthew 21:23, you realize Jesus’ audience for the parable are the chief priests and the elders in the temple of Jerusalem. Once this audience stopped and reflected, they would remember Isaiah 5 (which just happens to be this weekend’s first reading). It was an allegory about a vineyard where the vineyard owner is God. The vineyard is specifically Jerusalem.

Suddenly, as one of the chief priests or city elders of Jerusalem, everything should click into place. There were sitting in God’s vineyard with wicked tenants. According to Jewish tradition, many prophets sent to Jerusalem were beaten, Isaiah was killed and Jeremiah was stoned. Who is this man before us claiming to be? Who does he claim is his father?

This bold Jesus is not the timid Jesus many of us falsely envision. He walked right into the seat of power of showed them how wicked they had become. Eventually, He too would be taken outside the vineyard of Jerusalem and killed. Questions?

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